Thursday, December 6, 2007

Compassion and Morality

Compassion is the basis of morality.
--Arnold Schopenhauer

When we have compassion for another person, we envision ourselves in that person's place and imagine how we would feel if this were so. When we sympathize with someone, we do so by thinking of how we would want to be treated in the same instance.

A natural consequence of compassion is wanting to treat that person in the same way we'd hope to be treated if we were in the same circumstances. This is the "Golden Rule", which exists in every religious and ethical tradition. Much misery in this world could be averted if more people had compassion and stopped to think of how they'd like it if they were on the receiving end of acts they are about to commit or words they are about to say.

Compassion doesn't expect perfection, but acknowledges that we are all human and, to use a religious turn of phrase, "But for the grace of God, go I".

Much of what is considered to be morality is not compassionate, but compassion is always moral.

It's less important to teach our children the rules of moral behavior than it is to teach them to have compassion. Where compassion exists, true moral behavior will follow.


1 comment:

Melissa said...

I love that last paragraph you wrote because what you say is true. I try to think I'm a compassionate person, and hopefully someday that will shine through when I become a nurse.